2011 Mercy Housing Annual Report
Mercy Housing residents and staff survive devastating tornado in Joplin
Mercy Housing in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska
The senior residents who call Mercy Village home are lucky to be alive after the devastating tornado that struck the city of Joplin, Missouri, in late May 2011 and left many homeless and without hope.
When news hit that one of Mercy Housing’s properties was in the storm’s path, staff members including Jennifer Erixon, Senior Vice President of Real Estate Development and Asset Management, immediately went to Joplin to ensure the safety of the residents and staff and to assess the damage to the building.
“As I reflect, I’m continually struck by the amazing and heroic efforts of our staff and residents,” said Erixon. “While shaken, all of our residents and staff made it out of the building. It’s truly amazing.”
Maintenance Manager Alan Langel was not at the property at the time the tornado hit, but was able to make it there even before the first responders arrived. He quickly turned off the power to the building and shut off the main water to prevent additional damage. Then he and one of the residents filled their pockets with apartment keys and entered each unit to ensure that all of the residents made it to safety.
“Some of the residents had to be carried to safety through the glass and debris in the hallway,” said Erixon. “I heard stories of strangers then carrying electric wheelchairs through the dark down three flights of stairs.”
Mercy Village, originally built in 2005, was inspected by a structural engineer and it was discovered that the good design of the building contributed to the property surviving the storm. Fortunately, the property was repaired and in February 2012, Mercy Housing celebrated the grand re-opening of Mercy Village and welcomed our senior residents back home.
“The event was a wonderful tribute to the courage and resilience of the on-site staff and the residents who were genuinely glad to be back home even though it reminded them of that terrible evening last May,” said Sister Lillian Murphy, RSM, Mercy Housing Ceo. “the least we can do is to bring these seniors home to a place where they feel safe and cared for.”
One resident that was especially lucky to have survived the tornado was Bonnie Betz. Bonnie, an 82-year-old former hair stylist and a mother of two, has spent her entire life living in tornado alley – the infamous stretch in the southern plains of the center of the United States.
Bonnie was taking a nap in her third-floor apartment when the tornado sirens were sounded. When she was awakened by the storm, she immediately went to the hallway and started down the stairs. When she was at the top of the stairs, the entire wall of the stairwell was torn away from the building by the tornado.
“As I tried to make my way to the Community room shelter, I felt the building buck and the stairway I was in at the time started to collapse right out from underneath me,” said Bonnie.
She clung to the banister with her arthritic hands and was lifted off of her feet, yet she somehow managed to hold on. “It was awful, but I’m thrilled to be moving back to Mercy Village,” said Bonnie about her much-anticipated homecoming. “The hardest part was being away from my friends and neighbors at Mercy Village. It’s good to be home.”